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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Tibaldo: On sacred grounds and respect for cultural taboos

WHILE bloggers and social media influencers are getting more mileage online than the traditional scribe, non-cinema cameramen and wedding photographers are also getting more creative in producing audio-visual presentations of their clients.

One striking pictorial of a groom and bride was shot taken at a place considered sacred by the upland people of Northern Luzon. The shot of a couple in an intimate pose just below the hanging coffins of Sagada’s Echo Valley was probably meant to depict and conform to the old adage “till death do us part” but the whole thing is simply not acceptable to all cultures especially to Cordillerans.

Composite images of the pre-nuptial scene was posted on social media post by Cordillera Voice’s Facebook page with the caption “Dos and don’ts in covering and documenting IPs and sacred grounds:

IP Cultural Taboos and Respect for Sacred Grounds - the matter of cultural sensitivity boils down to general awareness of the indigenous people’s rights and understanding their way-of-life. Let us respect their indigenous knowledge systems and practices (IKSP) and we must not impose or apply to them what we believe is acceptable to us.”

As of this writing, the post of the Echo-Valley shoot has already generated over fifty comments expressing disgust and dismay over the pictorial and one netizen named Danny upon seeing the post said “they can do it anywhere But not in our sacred burial grounds. This is very disrespectful and an insult to the dead and to our Sagada Culture. We could never do such a thing like they did but pass by quietly in prayer and salute them out of respect and honor for them You have invaded their resting place. Why choose a venue for a pre-nup? The spirits of the dead will haunt them forever! I tell you. Absolutely a disgrace and an insult. I protest!”

To make the story even more interesting, Mary, a Sagada resident commented “I was approached once by an i-Sagadan who had a 3rd eye suggesting the Vestry to put up a rail where people can view the hanging coffins only so that tourists need not go very near the burial area where the coffins are hanged or to advise tourists to minimize screaming and shouting within the area because accordingly, a tourist came to her for an unexplainable pain and this woman with a 3rd eye said that "people" living at the Echo Valley are tired of screaming etc in their abode. I remember this was brought out in an MTC mtg and "sunga echo valley." Anyway, I am sharing this for a food for thought. Sagada believes in Inayan.”

Inayan according to Prof Morr Tadeo Pungayan in his Ethnos Ibaloi column is an expression in the Kankana-ey language to mean, more or less: “it is not ‘good morals’ to do this, that, or such” of which by substance
and in the right context could be paralleled a karma in some respects therefore, the person to whom it is directed, should be cautioned, or warned, or restrained – usually for his own good.

A manual for sensitive reportage has been released by the Cordillera News Agency that crafted the first guidebook for media reporting. The CNA has immersed in 7 indigenous peoples groups covering the entire Luzon getting media protocol from the Bago’s of Ilocos in Region I, the Ibanag’s of Cagayan Valley in Region 2, the Aeta’s of Mt. Pinatubo area in Region 3, the Ilongots of the Aurora Province in Region 3, the Mangyan’s of Mindoro in Region 4b, the Tagbanua’s of Palawan in Region 4B as well groups in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Dubbed as the Luzon Cultural Sensitivity Manual, the research project was made in tandem with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and my CNA group did the research and interviews on the Bago cultural communities in parts of Ilocos Sur, La Union and Baguio City.

The manual puts into perspective how indigenous groups should be reported on as well as the manner of reporting which media practitioners as well as educators must adhere to. Prior to the finalization of the manual, we conducted a training which gathered over 100 media practitioners, bloggers, educators and information officers for a 2-day training with representatives from the seven IP groups researched on. As the team leader of the Bago research group, one of the things that are common to Filipino values is respect to ancestors. Many believe in the spirit world and it is one reason why we offer an “atang” whenever we celebrate a feast or remember the dead. The CNA as an organization has been engaged in media based advocacy particularly in peace and reconciliation, environment and climate change, cultural preservation and empowering local communities.
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